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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Austen’

Last week I finally watched Austenland, and absolutely regretted nearly every second of it. There are some VERY good reasons it only got a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s the trailer:

At first glance, it looks like another movie about silly Jane Austen fans. I myself am a huge Austen fan (though I probably would never want to live in an experience like this one) – I’ve been to Bath, England, and checked out all her old haunts, and I’ve read all the finished books. Sure, I love Mr. Darcy as much as most Austen fans, but my favorite is probably Mr. Tilney. JJ Field portrayed Mr. Tilney in a BBC version of Northanger Abbey, and I’ve enjoyed his performances in other movies. Bret McKenzie is always funny (and also FIGWIT), and Jennifer Coolidge us usually hilarious. So I figured this movie would at least be funny, and maybe a little unrealistically cute, and I was ok with that.

Boy, was I horribly wrong.

I’m going to give a lot of spoilers for this movie, so if you, for whatever reason, really want to see this movie without spoilers, probably you should stop reading now. Though I highly advise against it. It’s terrible. Here’s why:

First, what the trailer doesn’t tell you is that all the men are actors paid to be there and pretend to fall in love with the women who show up for the vacation. Everyone is paired off, typical of a Jane Austen novel, and the women know the men are actors going into it. Personally, I felt this was a huge flaw, but mostly this is a product of the fact that it was meant as a romantic comedy. It was powerfully unrealistic, but in the end it did play an important role in the conflict – our main character, Jane “Erstwhile,” played by Keri Russell, can’t tell what’s real by the end of the movie and is extremely distraught over this and has trouble trusting her own feelings. This may have been the only well-written (or at least logically-written) part of the whole movie.

Basically all the characters sucked. They either weren’t likable, or their personalities were about as interesting as a cardboard box. Many of them were made to look mental (read: if you are a Jane Austen fan, you are probably mental). Jane is meant to be perceived as mental (her entire home is decorated like an old lady’s home, because that’s as close to Jane Austen’s style as they could get, apparently), but when she gets to Austenland, she ends up appearing as the only sane character. If that weren’t bad enough, she has absolutely no agency. Her character buildup is basically “Look, this girl is obsessed with Mr. Darcy, just like every other Jane Austen fan. Also her job is boring but we don’t really know what she does other than that she went to school for it for a little while. Eh, who cares, she just wants romance anyway because she’s a boring one-dimensional female character.” I struggled through the entire movie to figure out what she wanted in life, or at the very least out of this experience at Austenland. If she knew the men were all actors, she certainly couldn’t have expected romance out of the experience.

I will give them points for throwing a little twist on that particular plot aspect. Jane develops a relationship with the stableboy, who she assumes isn’t an actor, and isn’t part of the experience, more like proper hired help to make the experience run smoothly. As it turns out, he IS an actor, and he was meant to be paired up with her all along. He even pretends that he’s not part of the experience just to win her over. It’s kind of sick the way it all plays out, actually. The fact that this stableboy character was played by Bret McKenzie made him bearable as an antagonist character, but ugh… what a let down. It also seemed a bit cruel for a romantic comedy, but what do I know?

JJ Field did alright with the role he was given, but I really wish he hadn’t been in this movie. Same goes for James Callis. They, as well as Bret McKenzie, could all have done much better than this pitiful excuse of a movie, and I haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet. Unfortunately, they made JJ Field make a half-hearted attempt at being the “Mr. Darcy character.” He was all broody, and didn’t like to dance. But he didn’t stick to any other characteristic of Mr. Darcy. In fact, that detail specifically made me think the writers/directors of this movie may not have ever read a Jane Austen novel in their lives. Hell, it could have been Nicholas-Sparks-Land and you’d have the same story (with less awkward clothing and hairstyles).

So here’s the worst part:

This romantic comedy has an attempted rape.

They don’t call it that (using the term “assault” instead), of course, but that only adds to the horribleness with which they handled this particular plot point. Jane almost gets raped by the husband of the woman who runs the whole operation. JJ Field manages to rescue her just in time, and it is implied that this sort of thing has happened before.

And the old bastard gets away with it.

The night it happens, Jane brushes it off like it’s nothing, and the movie continues, and it isn’t brought up again until Jane threatens the woman who runs the place with reporting the guy simply because she is absolutely upset about the whole experience and how the love is all fake, etc. etc. She doesn’t consider reporting him because IT WAS A HORRIBLE THING FOR HIM TO DO, it’s just an afterthought to the rest of her awful experience in Austenland. THEN, at the end of the movie, when the woman in charge tries to smooth everything over by sending Bret’s character to the airport to apologize and pretend to still be interesting in her, Jane backs down and confesses that she wasn’t going to report the man who attacked her, so they didn’t need to worry about her ruining the business. She just wanted to go home. This bastard NEVER sees the consequences of his actions. His attempted rape is treated like it’s no big deal.

No wonder we have such a problem with rape culture in this country.

If it weren’t for that attempted rape scene, I could have just been annoyed I’d wasted my time with a boring movie. But that alone made me take a closer look at the whole thing, and just thinking about this movie makes me angry. Luckily I got it for one free night at Redbox and didn’t actually lose any money to it, which would have just infuriated me further.

So, avoid watching Austenland at all costs. It will not make you proud to be a fan of Jane Austen.

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